Environment


Chagossians update

11 April 2014 by

330px-Chagosmap

A lot is happening in various challenges related to the long-running and shameful exclusion of the Chagossian people from their islands in the Indian Ocean. 

Here are the headlines, with a reminder of what these cases are about:

First, the Court of Appeal has just (2 April 2014) heard an appeal by the Chagossians against the dismissal of their challenge to the designation of the waters around the islands as a Marine Protected Area. 

Second, the closed hearing of the UNCLOS Arbitral Tribunal on the merits of the Chagos dispute (Mauritius v UK) is to be held at Istanbul on 22 April 2014. This also concerns the designation of the MPA.

Thirdly, the public hearing in the UK Information Tribunal on access to Diego Garcia pollution data appeal under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, which the FCO — contrary to the view of the Information Commissioner — says is inapplicable to overseas territories) is to be held on May 1st, 2014.

Now to a little more detail.

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International Court of Justice orders Japan to suspend its Antarctic whaling program

31 March 2014 by

japan-whaling-e1270007253119The International Court of Justice has today upheld Australia’s bid to ban Japan’s Antarctic whaling program.

ICJ president Peter Tomka said the court concluded the scientific permits granted by Japan for its whaling program were not scientific research as defined under International Whaling Commission rules.  The Court had found, by a majority of twelve votes, that Japan had conducted a program for logistical and political considerations, rather than scientific research. There is of course no appeal against an ICJ ruling and Japan has officially said that it will comply with the ruling.

The following is based on the ICJ’s press release.

Findings of the Court

First, the Court dismissed Japan’s argument that the Court had no jurisdiction over the dispute, submitted by Australia.
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Judicial review changes: inevitably the same result if no unlawfulness?

16 February 2014 by

baconsthorpe-castleNorth Norfolk District Council v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, [2014]  EWHC 279 (Admin), Robin Purchas QC sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, 14 February 2014 – read judgment

In my last post, I explained how Chris Grayling’s proposed reforms might affect planning and environmental challenges, and, hey presto, within the week, a perfect illustration of one of the points which I was making – with implications for all judicial reviews.

One of the proposals in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill (see here) is that a challenge to an unlawful decision should fail if it is highly likely that the outcome for the applicant would not have been substantially different, had the public authority not acted unlawfully. This compares with the current test which is that the decision should be quashed unless it is inevitable that the decision would be the same.

 Cue a proposed wind turbine (86.5m to blade tip) to be placed on one of the highest points of Norfolk and affecting the setting of two Grade I listed buildings (Baconsthorpe Hall and Barningham Hall) and a number of Grade II* churches. The Inspector allowed the turbine on appeal from the local planning authority, which decision the judge has now set aside.
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Grayling’s proposals for environmental and planning judicial review

9 February 2014 by

mus_1192620167Sections 50 to 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill and Explanatory Notes; the full Government response is here, 4 February 2014

At first sight, proposals full of sound and fury, and signifying not a great deal for planning and environmental challenges. There are some slippery costs changes which we need to look at, but some of the potentially more concerning proposals (see Adam’s post and the linked posts) do not fully apply to this area, as I shall explain. There are also some perfectly sensible proposals about harmonising planning challenges which lawyers have been advocating for years.

This consultation got going in September 2013 when Grayling put forward his round 2 of reform to judicial review in a wide-ranging, and frankly worrying, consultation paper. This week’s announcement and draft bill seeks to take some of these measures forward, but leaves others at home.

Mercifully, the bill does not include the ill-thought out consultation proposal to reform rules about standing in judicial review – who can complain of unlawful action by government? The proposal had been very worrying to those concerned with environmental challenges. It would have led to the rather unsatisfactory position that a NIMBY complaining about a nearby development would have been able to challenge an unlawful decision, but an entirely altruistic concern about unlawfulness affecting, say, birds, bats or habitats would have been dismissed not on the merits, but because the NGO or individual conservationist had insufficient “interest” in the outcome. See my previous post on this.

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Materiality in environmental judicial review

18 November 2013 by

luftbild_web_klein_bGemeinde Altrip et al v. Land Rheinland-Pfalz, CJEU, 7 November 2013 – read judgment

When you challenge a decision in the courts on the basis that it was unlawful, you must show that the wrong is material. The other side may say that the wrong led to no difference in the decision; it would have inevitably have been the same even if the defendant had acted lawfully. The onus is on you the claimant, but it is not at the moment a high one. Only a possibility of a different outcome is enough to get you home and the decision quashed.

This materiality issue was one of the points in this challenge by local landowners to a flood retention scheme affecting some 320 ha of their land in the former Rhine flood plain. The scheme had undergone an environmental impact assessment which the locals said was defective. But did the locals have to show that correcting the defects might have made a difference to the ultimate decision? That was one of the questions which the German federal administrative court referred to the EU Court.

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Wind farms, birds, and that pesky thing called the rule of law

28 October 2013 by

bp_whimbrel_15_240409_500Sustainable Shetland, Re Judicial Review, 24 September 2013, Lady Clark of Calton  read judgment

The current storms brought down a turbine in Teignmouth: see here for good pics of this and other mayhem. And the rule of law recently brought down a massive wind farm proposed for Shetland. The Scottish Ministers had waved aside a request for a public inquiry, and ended up drafting reasons which ignored the obligations in the Wild Birds Directive in respect of this bird – the whimbrel. Lady Clark quashed the consent on this ground, and also decided that the wind farmer could not apply for the consent anyway because it had not got the requisite licence which she concluded was a pre-condition for such an application. 

And there is a very good chance that the NGO which brought this challenge would not be entitled to do so if Mr Grayling gets his way, because it might well not have been held to have “standing”. Such a change he would regard as “firmly in the national interest”: see my post of last week on proposed reforms to judicial review rules. There are, to say the least, two sides to that argument about national interest, hence the importance of responding to his consultation paper, with its closing date of 1 November 2013.

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No standing for the Inuit in Luxembourg

12 October 2013 by

ipTteC6iztnEInuit Tapiriit Kanatami et al v. European Parliament, CJEU, 3 October 2013 (read judgment), following Advocate General Kokott, 17 January 2013, read opinion and my post

This important case is all about “standing” before the EU courts, namely the ability to complain about some EU act that affects you. Lack of standing means that even if a measure was wrong and unlawful, you cannot get your foot in the door of the court. Domestic rules are quite relaxed, though proposals by Government to make it more difficult to sue Government and other public authorities are currently being consulted upon. But you cannot say that an EU law is unlawful without going to Luxembourg.

The EU Courts have always been very restrictive about the circumstances in which an individual can do so. A brief blip (C-50/00 UPA) a few years ago by a UK Advocate-General suggesting that things be done differently was squashed by the Court. And since then it has been one-way traffic in the EU Courts, brushing off criticism from NGOs and indeed the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee in 2011 (see here). For a good summary of the EU case law up to 2011, see the ACCC at [20]-[31]

Recent Treaty amendments in Lisbon have, it will be seen, made little difference to the result.

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Aarhus, the A-G, and why the rules on interim remedies need to change

27 September 2013 by

SheernessCommission v. UK, Opinion of Advocate-General Kokott, 12 September 2013 read opinion here 

I did an initial post here summarising this opinion from the A-G to the CJEU saying that the UK was in breach of two EU Directives about environmental assessment and pollution control – the breaches concerned our system for litigation costs. It struck me that there was a lot in the opinion, and after some re-reads, I continue to think so. So I will deal in this post with one aspect, namely the finding that the UK is in breach, in requiring an undertaking as to damages by the claimant to back up the claimant’s interim injunction – in the jargon, a cross-undertaking. 

We are back on the well-trodden path of the UN-ECE Aarhus Convention to which the EU has subscribed. Article 9(4) requires that there be review procedures in environmental cases which shall provide “adequate and effective remedies including injunctive relief as appropriate, and be fair, timely and not prohibitively expensive.” And a requirement for a cross-undertaking, the A-G concluded, infringed that provision.

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HS2 challenges fail but powerful dissent

26 July 2013 by

_65547471_65547470R (o.t.a HS2AA, Buckingham County Council and others) v. Secretary of State for Transport, 24 July 2013, Court of Appeal – read judgment 

HS2 is the proposed high speed rail link to Birmingham and beyond.  Its opponents sought to challenge the decision to promote it by way of a hybrid Bill in Parliament, saying that the process as a whole breached the various EU rules, including the need for Strategic Environmental Assessment under the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive 2001/42/EC and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 2011/92/EU.

The Court of Appeal rejected these contentions, as had the judge before them. But Sullivan LJ, a highly experienced planning judge, was far from convinced. He thought that a key question about the SEA Directive ought to be determined by the EU Court (the CJEU) before domestic judges could form a settled view on it.

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Permission to amend after expiry of time limits – and an unfair hearing

18 July 2013 by

dunmow-map-alldev2Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government v San Vicente and Carden [2013] EWCA Civ 817, Court of Appeal, 18 June 2013read judgment

There is a curious if not bizarre set of anomalies about planning and environmental challenges. Where they involve an attack on a decision by the Secretary of State (typically in respect of a decision by a planning inspector after inquiry), the route is via section 288 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990. There is a strict 6 week time limit, with no discretion to extend – but no need for permission to apply as in judicial review. But where there is a challenge to any other decision, the time limit (at the moment) is 3 months, with discretion to extend – but also a discretion to disallow if the application was not “prompt” even within the 3 months  (see my post on this last point) and the permission hurdle to clear.

Yet in each case the substantive grounds are effectively the same – but to what extent should procedures differ other than those required by the statutory underpinning?

The conundrum in this case was – what to do about a set of grounds (drafted by lawyers)  filed after the s.288 time limit, in substitution for grounds (by the clients doing it themselves) filed within the 6 weeks.

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Sea fishing, quotas and A1P1: “no-one owns the sea”

11 July 2013 by

carouselThe UK Association of Fish Producer Organisations v. Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Cranston J,  10 July 2013  read judgment 

Interesting alignment of parties in this challenge to Defra’s new system of allocating fish quota brought by an industry body (UKAFPO), in practice representing the larger fishing fleet – vessels over 10 metres in length –  Defra was supported by Greenpeace (how often does that happen?), and by the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association. And this was because Defra had transferred some fishing quota from the larger to the smaller fishing fleet, namely those under 10 metres in length who fish inshore waters.

The first claim was that UKAFPO had a substantive legitimate expectation in their favour which was unlawfully frustrated by Defra’s change of policy. The second was that there was a breach of Article 1 of Protocol 1 (A1P1) of ECHR, or its EU analogue, Article 17 of the Charter. The third was that UKAFPO was being discriminated against unlawfully – comparable situations must not be treated differently under EU law, and only English fishermen who were members of English fish producers organisations were affected.

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Public interest environmental litigation in Strasbourg

7 July 2013 by

zimbabwe_environmental_law_association_(zela)Public Interest Environmental Litigation and the European Court of Human Rights: No love at first sight, by Riccardo Pavoni – read article 

Thanks to this link on the ECHR blog, a fascinating account of the twists and turns of Strasbourg environmental case law from Professor Pavoni, of the University of Siena. It is 30 closely-argued pages, so I shall try and give a flavour of the debates Pavoni covers, as well as chucking in my own penn’orth. 

The starting point, as I see it, is that public interest environmental litigation is a square peg in the round hole of Strasbourg case law. The Convention and the case law are concerned with victims of human rights abuses. Environmental degradation affects everyone, but not necessarily in a way which makes them a a Strasbourg victim. Take loss of biodiversity, say the decline in UK songbirds, or the peace of a remote moorland affected by 150m high wind turbines. Who is the potential victim in those cases when judged by human rights? Pavoni argues that if the Strasbourg Court were to assert jurisdiction over environmental cases as a common good, alongside adverse impacts on private victims, this would not result in a major overhaul of the Court’s current principles – not too much expansion of the hole needed to fit the square peg in snugly. How does he reach that position?

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The Chagossian Wikileaks cable judgment, fishing rights and a dose of EU law

11 June 2013 by

330px-ChagosmapBancoult v. Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Divisional Court, Richards LJ and Mitting J, 11 June 2013 read judgment

The Divisional Court has now dismissed  the claim by Mr Bancoult on behalf of the Chagossian islanders. He had challenged the designation of the waters around the islands as a “no take” Marine Protected Area, i.e. one which could not be fished. 

Mr Bancoult said that the decision was flawed (i) by having an improper purpose (it would put paid to the Chagossians’ claims for resettlement); (ii) by inadequate consultation and (iii) by amounting to a breach of an EU obligation to promote the economic and social development of the islands. The Court ruled against all these claims.

The case has, to say the least, quite a back-story. It started with the Chagossians’ eviction from their islands in the Indian Ocean in the late 1960s and early 1970s,  on which I have posted here, here, and, in Strasbourg, here. After a judgment from the courts in 2000, the Foreign Office accepted that the original law underlying their departure was unlawful, and agreed to investigate their possible resettlement on some of their islands.

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Who “holds” the working papers of the Climategate inquiry?

7 May 2013 by

emailgate_mockup_k_SMLHolland v. Information Commissioner & University of East Anglia, First Tier Tribunal, 29 April 2013  – read judgment

In 2009 someone hacked into e-mails belonging to the Climate Research Unit at UEA and leaked them widely. Climate change sceptics whooped with delight because they thought that the e-mails showed attempts to suppress or gerrymander climate data (see e.g. this example from James Delingpole with some of the ticklish e-mails, and for more background, less tendentiously put, my post on an earlier UEA case). And the CRU data was important; it had made its way into the highly influential IPCC reports.

UEA understandably thought that something needed doing in response to the leaks, and commissioned an inquiry, the Independent Climate Change E-mail Review. ICCER reported in 2010: see here for the report and here for a short summary. ICCER  concluded that there had not been any systematic manipulation of data, though there had been a lack of openness by CRU in dealing with requests for information. 

This recent decision concerns a campaigner’s efforts to get copies of the working papers of the Review. The First Tier Tribunal (as the Information Commissioner before it) refused to order UEA to produce them.  UEA did not “hold” them, ICCER did. And ICCER was not a public authority capable of being ordered to produce them.

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Supreme Court refers air pollution case to the EU Court

1 May 2013 by


NO2_PicR (ClientEarth) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food &  Rural Affairs  [2013] UKSC 25, Supreme Court, 1 May 2013 – read judgment

on appeal against Court of Appeal 30 May 2012 read CA judgment

The Supreme Court has taken the UK’s lack of compliance  with EU legislation, Directive 2008/50 (limiting the amount of nitrogen dioxide in air)  much more seriously than the courts below.  It has made a declaration that the UK is in breach and has referred questions of interpretation concerning the Directive and remedies to the CJEU.

The UK has been in breach of Article 13 the Directive since 1 January 2010, because at that date 40 “zones and agglomerations” had nitrogen dioxide at concentrations greater than the limit values set out in the Directive. ClientEarth, an environmental NGO, sought to enforce the Directive in the national courts.  Defra admitted breach of Article 13 and, given the admission, the Court of Appeal said that there was no point in granting any declaratory relief. It was for the EU Commission, if it wished, to take infraction proceedings.

This seemed to me like a cop-out – it is for the Commission and the courts to enforce directives, as I suggested in my previous posts (e.g. here) on this case.

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